At a ceremony at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich on Thursday, British skipper Dame Ellen MACARTHUR, was awarded France's highest decoration, the Légion d'Honneur by the French President Nicolas SARKOZY.
This was a formal recognition of the award that was bestowed upon MACARTHUR after she set a new solo non-stop round the world record of 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds in February 2005 (the record has since been bettered by Francis JOYON).
In his speech, the President highlighted the reasons why MACARTHUR, who was last year named as one of the six inaugural inductees into the ISAF Sailing Hall of Fame
, had been chosen for this prestigious award:
"Ellen is a symbol of Franco-British friendship - adored by people from both countries and she symbolises something that unites the two countries. Her passion for the sea - offshore racing is a passion for the French and she is so courageous especially given the fact that she was so young when she first sailed into the record books. Not only is she a very brave person who has made people dream with her adventures on the sea, but she is also an extremely kind and generous person as evidenced by her work with the Ellen MacArthur Trust taking young people with cancer and leukaemia sailing to help them rebuild their confidence," said the French President.
MACARTHUR responded to this award by saying, "It is a huge honour to receive this award from a country from where I have set off on some of my greatest adventures. I have spent a great deal of time in France over the past 11 years, and the support and warmth shown by its people has been truly touching. But above all, I feel huge gratitude towards the incredible team I work with, as it was as much their commitment and drive as my own which has lead us to where we are today."
MACARTHUR received her medal in the exact same location where one of the first heroes of British sailing, Sir Francis CHICHESTER, was knighted by the Queen Elizabeth II in 1967. Fellow British sailor Pete GOSS was also awarded the Légion d'Honneur for his rescue of Raphael DINELLI in the 1996 Vendée Globe solo round the world yacht race during a severe storm in the Southern Ocean.
ISAF Sailing Hall of Fame - http://www.sailing.org/halloffame